Video of marsh harrier persecution on North Yorkshire grouse moor

If anybody has been foolish enough to believe any of the grouse shooting industry’s recent propaganda onslaught in the run up to the Inglorious 12th, here’s a shocking reminder of what really goes on.

Press release published today by North Yorkshire Police:


North Yorkshire Police are investigating an incident in which men disturbed a pair of marsh harriers nesting on moorland north of Denton, near Ilkley, in Wharfedale.

In May 2017 a pair of marsh harriers was discovered nesting on moorland forming part of Middleton and Denton moors near the village of Denton in North Yorkshire.

The site was monitored by RSPB investigators who photographed the nest containing five eggs. The adult birds were observed at the nest.

A camera was set up to record activity at the nest site. Video images recorded by the camera show that on 17 May at least two individuals, who appeared to be men, wearing dull, brownish green coloured jackets, traditional country caps, and carrying what looked like shotguns and a brown game bag approached the nest site on six occasions between 12.40pm and 9.30pm. The sound of several shots fired in the vicinity of the nest  were recorded, as was the noise of an engine, believed to be a quad bike. One of the men stood over the nest, bent down, and appeared to pick up something from the nest before walking away.

The following day, 18 May, a further visit by a man, similarly attired, along with a green rucksack, was recorded at around 9.40am. This individual stood over the nest, bent down, and appeared to remove something from the nest.

An RSPB investigator checked the site on 19 May and discovered the nest had no eggs in it, with no sign of any debris from damaged eggs.

The people shown on the video at the nest site have not been identified. A number of men have been spoken to by police as part of the investigation.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) makes it an offence to take, damage, or destroy the nest of any wild bird. Marsh harriers are a scarce species, listed on schedule 1 of the WCA, and have additional protection. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb birds listed on schedule 1 while they are at, or near, a nest with eggs or young. Marsh harriers are birds of prey and they normally breed in marshes and reed beds. It is unusual to find them breeding in heather on a moor.

PC Bill Hickson, who is investigating the incident, said: “The video evidence provided by the RSPB shows illegal activity around a marsh harrier nest, and the activity shown speaks for itself. The pictures on the video are, unfortunately, too small to produce an image from which any of the individuals shown could be identified.”

Anyone who has any information about the incident or can help identify who was responsible is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police. Telephone 101, choose option 2 and ask for PC 820 Bill Hickson or email


The RSPB has released a copy of the video footage: (make sure the volume is turned up)

The RSPB’s investigations unit has also published a blog about this case, here.

Gosh, who do you think those armed gunmen were? It’s a tricky one.

Here’s a map we’ve created to show the approximate location in Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (which also just happens to be a notorious raptor persecution hotspot):

Well done to the RSPB Investigations Team for securing this footage (note: NOT inadmissible evidence) and very well done to North Yorkshire Police for a timely public appeal for information.

If, like us, you’re sick to the back teeth of the illegal persecution of raptors on grouse moors, and you want 10 million people to hear about it, please consider using your social media accounts (twitter & facebook) to sign up to Findlay Wilde’s thunderclap, due to go out at 9.30am on the morning of the Inglorious 12th. At the moment, the social reach of this thunderclap is over 9.5 million people. Let’s get it to ten million. Please sign here.

67 thoughts on “Video of marsh harrier persecution on North Yorkshire grouse moor”

    1. Yes I agree with your comment regarding covering your face when carrying a firearm. The licensee should be the person holding the weapon and if their face is hidden it makes identifying the licence holder harder. If they are so keen for a licence it it a small personal price to pay.

      1. Have a think please…if you can’t successfully prosecute rife killing of raptors how on earth do you think you could police ‘covering your face when carrying a firearm’? What if you are out shooting in a blizzard?

          1. One of the conditions of using a firearm is to use it legally. That doesnt seem to be working very well does it?

    2. Yes think someone carrying a firearm while their face is covered is FAR, FAR more of a worry than a masked hunt monitor trying to avoid identification and harassment by the real thugs (such as these?). Wonder if the Countryside Alliance will be kicking up a fuss about this example of people having covered faces?

    1. I don’t know but one Wednesday morning last year I was on this moor and interrupted what appeared to be organised hare coursing with toffs in hunting regalia, a pack of hounds and gamekeepers. We spotted the dogs coming over the brow of the hill and then the hare which limped past us. As I approached the gathering to take photos a gamekeeper was sent to intercept us with ‘friendly’ chat and said they were on the land exercising their dogs with the permission of the local farmer.

      1. ive seen them illegally chasing two Roe Deer on that moor with 30+ hounds. only made an attempt to stop them when they saw me watching. even then half the hounds were out of control and went into neighboring woodland owned by Yorkshire Water (who I might added didnt seem to care that much when informed). Cant say either way if the deer got away or not.

  1. Cannot watch the video – just making me so angry. Sick of these people and the sick psychopaths that enjoy killing wildlife

  2. The location is very close the West Yorkshire border, and we all know WYP’s attitude to evidence, if it’s not in the Daily Telegraph then it’s just hearsay.

  3. Just watched the video and I can confirm it is just another bit of packhampiffle, nothing to see here……. Move along……another moor myth

      1. This was actually the argument used by the grouse lobby when a man was seen on video hiding in the heather with a gun and a decoy Hen Harrier and the wind-turbine argument was used to excuse the ‘disappearing’ raptors in the Monadhliaths. I understand your anger.

  4. Yes, well done to the RSPB. I’m sure the local shooting community is being very helpful with the investigation.

    Raising a glass of hen harrier ale to the Investigations team, and two fingers to the Inglorious 12th.

  5. I worked for two months on Fetlar (Shetland) as a temporary warden to protect the breeding pair of Snowy owls in the early 1970s. With the resources that the RSPB has why did they not put a hide at the Marsh Harrier nest 24/7 with volunteers or paid staff as we did on Fetlar? Poor show as far as I am concerned, no wonder these morons brazenly walked up and done their vile deeds. Looking at the film someone must know who they are ??

    1. Hi Oliver,

      Think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. Do you honestly think the grouse moor landowner would give permission for the RSPB to set up a hide and monitor the Marsh harrier nest?

      The RSPB deserve full credit for obtaining this video evidence. Without it, the public wouldn’t have a clue what went on on that grouse moor.

      1. Okay point taken about landownership, particularly in England, but I find it amazing with all the photographic technology (digital enhancement etc.) that these criminals have not been identified? On Fetlar most of the crofters were happy to cooperate and regarded the snowies as a blessing, a different attitude altogether.

        1. Sadly even when people can be identified the Scottish laws deem the video evidence as “inadmissible”??? Therefore the criminals get away scot free, sorry!


    2. Well said, Oliver. Why doesn’t the RSPB invite its supporters /volunteers to take shifts during the raptor breeding season so that a discreet presence is available to safeguard all known nest sites. These arseholes would think twice before shooting at the birds and plundering their nest.
      Aaaargh I am so fucking angry right now – these fucking bastards! Those poor birds.

        1. Interesting that mass peaceful trespasses on the 12th were raised at least two years ago and still not one has been conducted. Hen harrier days are great and inspiring but they are preaching to the converted. Joe public doesn’t even know what a hen harrier is and therefore does not care. We need to wake up.

          1. Cairnton,

            Understand your anger and frustration, of course, but, as we’ve said to others on this blog, don’t slag off the efforts of others. If you want to see a mass peaceful trespass, get on and organise one.

          2. There does need to be more direct action. Joe public needs to take matters into their own hands. There are groups who target grouse shoots and they will be out again in force on the 12th, peacefully disrupting shoots and hitting them where it hurts – in the wallet.

            I’ve been branded an extremist many times, however I find it rather ironic that those doing the killing claim to be on the side of right. Regardless of the law shooting and everything that goes with it is morally reprehensible.

            1. Brilliant! Kindness isn’t extremism!

              I know that some people were talking about making tapes for gizmos hidden in heather near the likely butts playing the calls of eagles and alarm calls of grouse in order to frighten the grouse away (with the added benefit of no one needing to be seen) and, for other braver souls to make flying kites with images of eagles and raptors. There were discussions about whether the gizmo and kits ideas might work but you may recall this quote on page 86 of Richard Waddington’s Grouse Shooting and Management.

              “Of the remaining vermin I would say that eagles are quite the most tiresome. Not only do they kill a lot of grouse, but their presence on a beat entirely destroys a days shooting. … The eagle only kills the sitting grouse! It is for this reason that this bird is such a nuisance on a beat. As soon as he appears every grouse gets up and flies away. On the wing, the grouse knows he is safe. On the ground he is not.”


              1. Did BASC or the GWCT not do an assessment of the use of lasers for scaring birds? Wouldnt it be good if you could sit on the hillside opposite and flick a torch over the heather?

              2. A few of you can beat the opposite way to the guns or just turn about and mill around. If you’re there they can’t shoot. Anyone discharging a firearm will have their license revoked.

  6. Not inadmissible evidence but doesn’t go very far towards identifying any suspects either… Shame the investigators couldn’t have followed the suspects and got number plates/clear pictures of their faces/ evidence of where they live and work… If “citizen vigilantes” are securing convictions against paedophiles, then why not wildlife criminals too? Marsh harriers FFS! Makes my blood boil…

    1. I think the RSPB deserve credit here for their work and for bringing it to public attention. In no way would I expect their team to tackle the perpetrators in any way. They are armed, breaking the law and presumably dangerous. This is what we have a police force for surely.

      With hindsight, it might have been a good idea to say “Hey there is a Marsh Harrier nest here with 5 eggs in it” and publicise it early on all websites. The end result could not have been any worse.

      I live in Yorkshire and I am absolutely fed up with the relentless and endless catalogue of crimes committed in the name of sport against Red Kites, Peregrines, Buzzards, Hen Harriers and now even Marsh Harriers.

  7. Depending on the size of the estate there must be less than 8 possible culprits and given the video evidence it should be relatively easy to identify the individuals and what about voice recognition possibilities?

  8. I know this moor have been on it many many times in the past to bird watch survey birds and long ago to grouse beat. The shoot is Langbar with Denton it is syndicate run not sure who owns the moor.
    I have been in contact with both the police and RSPB because I recognise one of the men in the video by appearance, his walk and voice.

    1. Bloody fantastic Paul – I would be surprised if the voices recorded can’t be used to identify individuals in this day and age – hope this gets maximum publicity along with the wee incident with the WYP Firearms Licensing Dept.

    2. That’s brilliant news Paul and a personal thank you for standing up to these imbeciles . Now let’s hope the police follow up your information thoroughly!

  9. Lets face it. Top brass are invited to shoot on these Estates. Wake up, it comes under the corruption banner. They will protect the estate owners till kingdom come. Same as fox hunting, they are untouchable. So they think!!!!

  10. Distressing though the video is to watch and regardless of whether any prosecution (let alone conviction) arises from this footage, it’s very powerful counter to the cant put out by the grouse shooting lobby. Along with tagging, more evidence like this would be a very powerful weapon in the propaganda war. Is it possible to sponsor a video cam?

    1. The thing that stops any illegal activity is the risk of being caught. The more videos like this are realised, then perhaps these people ‘who dress up like gamekeepers’ will start to think twice about their actions. On th other hand they would just scour the area to the camera before committing their illegal action. Either way by letting these criminals know there is a strong chance of detection, it is a start.

      1. Many modern cams will send the video direct to a device, so the cam doesn’t have to be visited to get the film. Hopefully this would happen before the cam was found.

      2. Some of these cameras are surprisingly small and well camouflaged. They can be activated by movement. Gamekeepers sometimes use them on animal trails to monitor activity where they place snares. Yes, some people may spot them but, clearly, as in this case, the RSPB Investigation Team hid the camera well.

  11. Despicable behaviour once again over the grouse shooting grounds, it really is time to put this to an end, take the xxxxxxx and xxxxxxx to court, they know what they are doing!!!!!!!

  12. Rather than push for a prosecution, cant we just find out who they are and stone them to death ? Personally i’ve had enough of all this prosecution business. nothing ever comes of it as the police are too busy chasing motorists to help with funding.

  13. In case anyone has forgotten, there is only one real answer to this everyday criminality – Ban Driven Grouse Shooting…end of.

  14. Those gunmen are pure scum. Whoever is paying them to carry out illegal persecution of harriers are even bigger scum. All need to be prosecuted and punished to the utmost degree. They are the lowest of the low and utterly despicable.

  15. Ah ! those bad apples again …… but wait, surely this is the evil anti’s with another cunningly crafted plan to colour the public’s view of the conservation – minded grouse moor owners & their slaves the keepers who simply strive to create raptor – rich landscapes.

    Interestingly, I’ve recorded Marsh Harrier nesting successfully on dry heath in Andalucia & in Cornwall over the last 40 years so they are less marsh – addicted than is commonly supposed.

    Amazing where raptors will thrive when left in peace !

    Keep up the pressure !

  16. A copy of this should be formally sent to each of the main national newspapers and any locals for the area – to see if and how they report on the recording of the incidents. It suggests to me that the participants initially left the eggs, or most of the eggs because they wanted to preserve the chance of shooting one of the sitting adults on a further visit – confirmed on the captured film. This information has to be used to counter the sanctimonious grouse moor propaganda. It also puts the landowner in a bit of a spot – do they challenge the placing of the camera or does it force them to make a public statement on where they stand ? – especially if the identities of the participants is known (to them) or could be publicly disclosed afterwards.

    1. Bbc look north made it look more like egg collectors than the gamekeeping fraternity. Didnt show any of the video where they were shooting at the female marsh harrier.

  17. It would seem the police could get the identity of the people with the guns from the film, if not why not?

  18. Still not a peep from BASC, MA, CA or the eminent scientist and ecologist mr Botham. Conspicuous by their absence at the moment. All these liars who state time and again they are committed to stamping out persecution havnt come up with a sniff of condemnation. Says it all

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